Overtime, I have observed the character of terrorism as a complex, unpredictable and dynamic phenomenon. Terrorists are very determined rebels, who hardly flinch like Lucifer in perpetrating evil and atrocities.
They have a resolve that is almost unbreakable and exhibit empty boldness even in the face of defeat. Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) embody all of these traits. But they have met their combat superiors in the Nigerian Army.
I understand, since the Chief of Army staff (COAS) and leader of the counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai took the frontline seat in the anti-terrorism war in the country, insurgents have suffered incalculable damages. Our Army has refused to quail and at every point, soldiers give insurgents a good run for their time and money, with resounding victories.
It is a cliché to say, BHTs have been decimated and technically defeated. I cannot see their commanding heights as obtained in the past before Gen. Buratai sauntered on the theatre of terrorism warfare. The reckless and boastful terrorists’ strikes at civilian populations and public institutions have become nearly impossible in the last two years.
I can feel the pain of these religious extremists, humbled by the gallant Nigerian Army and disgracefully forced down from their high horse to unexpected levels of surrenders and lamentations by some of their leaders over a glaringly crumbling mission.
Therefore, I was not surprised, when the frustrated Boko Haram factional leader, Abubakar Shekau wailed loudly like a castrated bull, lamenting the reality of a failed war they would have cherished it blossomed interminably. And pained about the stalled progress, Shekau hinted of giving up on the terror war. In Shekau’s confessions, I sensed an apt positive testimony of the strong grip of the Nigerian Army on the terrorists.
I am told Shekau is hardened, cruel and bloodthirsty. But since Gen. Buratai took the stage of anti-terrorism operations in mid-2015, Boko Haram insurgency has depreciated in size and strikes. And this is not a pleasant experience for a rebel leader like Shekau.
The factional Boko Haram leader rapidly lost to the Nigerian Army, scores of top commanders and foot soldiers who energized the war. This is quite nightmarish both for Shekau and his sponsors. And I feel what has further weakened Shekau’s strength is the vow and unflinching determination of Nigerian troops to crush them at all cost.
And most disturbing to the bizarre jihadists, Gen. Buratai and his comrades have also blocked all avenues of recruitment of new adherents and fighters to replenish depleted ranks of insurgents. I know Shekau has become increasingly isolated, desolate and confused in the jungles.
This feeling is exacerbated by Shekau’s fears about the security of his personal life, hence there are no more sufficient foot soldiers to shield him in the event of an attack. I have seen in Shekau a dampened spirit and a strong desire for abandonment of the terrorism war.
A deep scrutiny of terrorism character would reveal that just when one is compelled to feel insurgents have been shattered and weakened, the remnants sneak from their sleeper cells to launch wretched attacks on obscure locations. The motive is to create a fake presence and publicity stunt of resurgence.
Unfortunately through, such actions are usually feeble and inconsequential. And each time remnants of insurgents make such attempts, it is aggressively and ruthlessly countered by our Nigerian troops, with more vehemence than they did at the peak of terrorism in 2015. So, soldiers have checkmated terrorists to the point of suffocation, which explains Shekau’s wailing in the wild jungles and forests.
Additionally, the mastery of Boko Haram strategies by the Nigerian Army has also thrilled me infinitely. Soldiers know that in certain localities, terrorists sometimes disappear, feigning extinction.
But our troops hardly go to bed because they know of these gimmicks designed to hoodwink soldiers to relax, in order to create favourable conditions for these insurgents to strike. These are feeble attempts to regain control of lost grounds.
However, the ever vigilant and combat-ready gallant soldiers are neither deceived nor taken by surprise. Therefore, every attempt by terrorists in recent times to re-enact their atrocious acts has collapsed like a pack of cards to their anger or frustration, as Nigerian troops mount unbreakable resistance. In many such instances, insurgents have met their waterloo and weapons seized from them.
Last Christmas, terrorists plots to stage an vicious comeback to Maiduguri through Molai, on the outskirts of Maiduguri were foiled by soldiers. Many of them met their deaths in the hands of our gallant troops in the course of gun battle.
The armed insurgents disguised themselves and mingled their trucks in the midst of civilians’ vehicles at the Molai military checkpoint, targeting to overrun the checkpoint and gain access into Maiduguri to execute their barbaric acts. But they walked themselves into the trap of solders and the tale ended instantly.
Also, early in the year, troops of Operation Lafiya Dole conducting Operation Deep Punch II clearance tasks confounded me. Troops slammed a lethal blow on remnants of terrorists still hibernating inside Sambisa forest’s Camp Zero and other parts of the Northern fringes of Borno. The operation, I can describe as very successful, destroyed terrorists camps and recovered sophisticated weapons from the terrorists.
At another such instance, terrorists attempted to approximate Maiduguri through Bille Shuwa and Alikaranti villages, but troops of Operation Lafiya Dole deployed to the Cashew Plantation engaged them in gun duel, leading to deaths of insurgents and suicide bombers in the combat.
The Nigerian Army is also aware that terrorists use charms to hypnotize and initiate vulnerable adolescents, mostly young females into the devilish sect. Insurgents strap these adolescents’ with bombs and other lethal explosives to detonate at targeted locations, causing mass deaths and destruction.
But the Army has effectively devised ways in countering such deadly outings. Now, bomb carriers no longer enjoy the luxury of detonating lethal explosives at targeted destinations.
Rather, the Army detects and neutralizes them from a safe distance, without any circumstantial damage. Even recently, Nigerian troops deflated two suicide bombers who were on an evil mission on targets in Maiduguri.
It gladdened my heart to realize that the unrelenting pressure mounted on insurgents by Nigerian troops compelled the short-lived drama of the abduction of the Dapchi schoolgirls. The gory experiences of the Chibok schoolgirls abduction comes handy. But in contrast, the instant return of the kidnapped Dapchi girls is indicative of a failed attempt by insurgents to re-launch the era of impudent abductions of schoolgirls.
I feel it is natural that Abubakar Shekau and his financiers would prefer not to hear the songs of their defeat in the hands of our troops. But the truth remains that the wings of Boko Haram terrorism have been clipped, and the game is indeed over, as consciously lamented and proclaimed by Shekau himself.
Shekau has found himself in the position of self-pity upon the realization that President Muhammedu Buhari has refused to change the leadership the Nigerian Army which is impressively winning the war on terror. Perhaps, when terrorists attempt occasional resurgence, is Shekau pulling the last strings in the vain hope that the Nigerian troops would suffer some fatigue? Certainly no! If this is his thoughts, then it is a serious gaffe. Nigerian troops are more determined now than ever before.
The terrorists leader should not forget in a hurry that he is dealing with the most ruthless and jagged Army in the world. Shekau knows the Nigerian Army has been the nightmare of The Gambia and the giant of ECOMOG operations in Africa. So, it cannot be bowed by a Shekau.
I believe time has come for Shekau and sponsors to face the stark reality of the end of the reign of terrorists atrocities. The victory of our troops is too golden and can’t be shared with anyone else. Nigerians are waiting with baited breath to consummate this victory with wild celebrations.
By Nkechi Odoma
Odoma is the President, African Arise for Change Network and contributed this piece from Asokoro, Abuja.